A new US startup, Boom, is planning a new generation carbon composite supersonic aircraft with 45 all-business seats in two single seat rows, and priced at about 10% above current business fares.
It will fly at over 2,500 km an hour, or Mach 2.2, and be able to link Australia’s east coast with the US west coast in 6 hours 45 minutes. A one-third size prototype is due to fly this year and the operation aims to be in business by 2023.
There are others in the market, but with support from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, Boom is at least guaranteed more publicity than the competition. Virgin Group has reportedly taken options on 10 of the aircraft. According to the Guardian, Virgin Galactic’s space division, The Space Company, “will provide engineering, design and manufacturing services, flight tests and operations,” and the Wall Street Journal reports that “Honeywell International Inc. has agreed to supply avionics”.
Since the Concorde stopped operations 14 years ago, there has been no supersonic passenger travel. And today’s jet aircraft actually usually fly even more slowly than they did 50 years ago (to save on fuel).
According to Boom’s website, “Long flights are a barrier to travel. We’re removing that barrier, turning 8-hour redeyes into 3-4-hour daytime flights. Excruciating 16-hour journeys become easy overnights. When you can get there in half the time, where will you go?”
Another route that could be attractive is from Australia’s and New Zealand’s capital cities to Singapore, where a simple return journey could allow the traveller to sleep in his or her own bed, without overnighting in Singapore – or even red-eyeing. And, if the manufacturer is able both to reduce the effect of sonic boom – and gain regulatory approval – trans-continental Australia services could also be attractive, with the back-in-a-day potential.
For corporates, it’s all down to ROI
Whether the added speed will be attractive to corporate travellers comes down to convenience and the advantage of any particular route, such as the one day visit potential and its associated savings.
ACTE Chairman and Troovo CEO Kurt Knacksted believes, “as with anything corporate travel related, it’s all about the ROI. I’d actually think that shorter flights like London-New York or transcontinental in Australia or the US would make more sense, as it would allow people to do a meeting and get back all in the same day. But again – it’s all about ROI and if that stacks up then potentially corporate programmes may be interested in having a look at it”.
Certainly pricing will be a vital part of the formula. Concorde, with twice as many seats (that it struggled to fill) charged the equivalent of USD20,000 roundtrip. With proposed fares only a little more than business class and only 45 seats to fill, the potential for numerous routes exists.
There will certainly be many C-suite executives who will find the justification to use the service. Boom, if successful could also encourage a flood of imitators, so air travel in the 2020s, to coin a phrase, could boom.